Updated 7/16/2012

Ticks 2012

Out for blood


Ticks are ubiquitous tiny terrors whose itchy bites can carry disease




Ticked-off is the way to go outdoors in Arkansas. Not in the sense of being disgruntled, but in the vein, so to speak, of being less of a victim and more of a victor in the annual blood feud with the “vampires” of the insect realm. Ticks are prevalent throughout the state, from the burbs to the boonies, lurking wherever there are potential hosts in the form of warm-blooded creatures great and small — livestock, deer, coyotes, dogs, rabbits, squirrels, mice. It’s not paranoia to believe the little bloodsuckers are out to get you, because humans make handy suppliers for parasites whose lives depend on blood meals. At the least, ticks deal discomfort through itchy, burning bites that become bothersome sores lasting for a week or longer. At worst, they can transmit debilitating diseases with consequences ranging from life-threatening to life-ending. Worldwide, ticks rank second only to mosquitos as “vectors” of disease.
Arkansas, ticks are known carriers and transmitters of several serious diseases, including tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis, according to Dr. Howell Foster, a pharmacist and director of the Arkansas Poison Control and Drug Information Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Foster noted that
Arkansas has a special strain of tick disease known as “Ehrlichia chaffensis for its association with Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith, where its origin was traced to Laotian refugees brought to the fort in the 1970s after the Vietnam War.
The refugees were carriers of the disease pathogen, which was soon spread when local ticks first snacked on them and then moved on to other hosts.
Although the
Poison Center doesn’t have data on how many people are infected with tick diseases each year, Foster believes the incidences are not uncommon.
“I think we have quite a few cases each year [that] don’t get reported other than to local physicians,” Foster said.
He also noted that
Arkansas is historically known for having the highest incidence of tularemia in the country.



Whatever the species, the life-cycle of ticks proceeds from larva to nymph to adult, with a blood meal being required to advance from one stage to the other.
Tick larvae are virtually invisible to the naked eye, but they can really make you itch and can infest a body in numbers to create a rash. They can deal the same discomfort as the parasitical mites known as chiggers.
Tick nymphs are more visible, but of a size that they are often referred to as “seed ticks” for their resemblance to small plant seeds. They can also cluster together to attack passing hosts in bunches.
Much more can be said about ticks and their threats, but nearly everyone who has spent any appreciable time in the outdoors heeds the old adage — once bitten, twice shy.
In other words, they recognize the nature of the beasts and practice avoidance.
Summer’s hitchhiker – the tick
Arkansas, ticks are as much a part of the outdoors as swimming holes and hiking trails. Dog, wood and Lone Star are just some of the common types of ticks found in the state’s forests. A small number of these arachnids carry potentially lethal diseases and can transmit them to humans.
Diseases such as:
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (Rickettsia rickettsii)–A bacterial disease whose symptoms include a sudden onset of fever, headache and muscle pain followed by development of a rash or “spots.”
Tularemia (Francisella tularensis)–An infectious bacterial disease that causes fevers, chills, gland swelling and ulceration in the area of the tick bite.
Ehrlichiosis (Ehrlichia)–A bacterial infection whose early stages resemble the flu followed by joint pain, headaches and possibly nausea.
Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi)–Rare in
Arkansas, this bacterial disease causes fatigue, fever, headache and joint pain. In 80 percent of the cases, the patient develops a characteristic bull’s-eye pattern around the tick bite.
Preventing bites:
Walk on trails to avoid dense grass or high weeds.
Wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easier to spot.
Tuck pants into socks and boots and wear long-sleeved shirts.
Use tick repellent and check your body every four to six hours.
SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arkansas Department of Health.




He got tick-borne disease and lived to tell about it


— Buddy Gough


During a lifetime spent in the outdoors, ticks have dealt me more misery than anything else — by far.
Mosquitoes, wasps and fire ants, itchy poison ivy, blazing sun and drenching, terrifying thunderstorms — all have been lesser evils than what ticks have done to me during the warmer months of the year.
Despite all my precautions, the blood-sucking parasites have gotten through my defenses time after time to deal discomfort as well as one unforgettable, long-term bout with a tick-borne disease that went undiagnosed for more than six months.
Like most tick diseases, it started with what seemed like a bout of flu involving fever, chills and joint pain. My joint pain persisted, and a second flu episode occurred three months later and hit again a third time after several more months.
A more debilitating symptom, however, was increasing fatigue and lethargy. I was able to be up and functional only about eight hours a day.
I attributed it to advancing age. Felt like 60 going on 80.
During the third go round of “flu” my doctor asked the key question: “Have you been exposed to any tick bites?”
After several weeks of taking oral antibiotics, I felt like a totally new man.
Since then, I’ve met other victims of tick diseases who had similar symptoms, some of them much worse. So my advice? If you come down with a summer case of “flu,” and you’ve had contact with a tick, tell your doctor.



In Arkansas, ticks are known carriers and transmitters of several serious diseases, including tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis, according to Dr. Howell Foster, a pharmacist and director of the Arkansas Poison Control and Drug Information Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Foster noted that
Arkansas has a special strain of tick disease known as “Ehrlichia chaffensis” for its association with Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith, where its origin was traced to Laotian refugees brought to the fort in the 1970s after the Vietnam War.
The refugees were carriers of the disease pathogen, which was soon spread when local ticks first snacked on them and then moved on to other hosts.
Although the
Poison Center doesn’t have data on how many people are infected with tick diseases each year, Foster believes the incidences are not uncommon.
“I think we have quite a few cases each year [that] don’t get reported other than to local physicians,” Foster said.
He also noted that
Arkansas is historically known for having the highest incidence of tularemia in the country.

All these diseases display similar symptoms within a few days to a few weeks of an infectious bite. “They are all pretty similar for having flulike symptoms of fever, chills and joint pain,” Foster said.
Over time, the diseases can cause prolonged joint pain, lethargy, weakness and even partial paralysis.
In the case of tularemia, the infection can affect the lymphatic system or lead to a type of pneumonia that can be fatal for a relatively high number of victims.
If properly diagnosed, tick diseases can be effectively treated with antibiotics, either intravenously in severe cases or orally over a period of weeks.
Although much has been written about Lyme disease, which often starts with a characteristic “bull’s-eye” rash and can lead to paralysis, it has not been identified as a significant threat in
Arkansas by the state’s Department of Health, Foster said.
That does not mean Arkansans have not contracted Lyme disease or never could. But Arkansans are more likely to be infected with ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever or tularemia transmitted by common native tick species.
Jeff Barnes, curator of the department of entomology insect collection at the
University of Arkansas, says those species include the Lone Star tick, American dog tick, brown dog tick and blacklegged tick or “deer tick.”
Barnes said, “The Lone Star tick is easily identified by the white spot on its back; its bite is also more irritating because of its large mouth parts.”


Updated 6/5/2011


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Tick Borne Diseases



Tularemia is a disease of animals and humans caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Rabbits, hares, and rodents are especially susceptible and often die in large numbers during outbreaks. Humans can become infected through several routes, including:

  • Tick and deer fly bites
  • Skin contact with infected animals
  • Ingestion of contaminated water
  • Laboratory exposure
  • Inhalation of contaminated dusts or aerosols

In addition, humans could be exposed as a result of bioterrorism.

Symptoms vary depending upon the route of infection. Although tularemia can be life-threatening, most infections can be treated successfully with antibiotics.

Steps to prevent tularemia include:

  • Use of insect repellent
  • Wearing gloves when handling sick or dead animals
  • Avoiding mowing over dead animals

In the United States, naturally occurring infections have been reported from all states except Hawaii.


Diagnosis & Treatment

Tularemia can be difficult to diagnose. It is a rare disease, and the symptoms can be mistaken for other more common illnesses. For this reason, it is important to share with your health care provider any likely exposures, such as tick and deer fly bites, or contact with sick or dead animals. Blood tests and cultures can help confirm the diagnosis. Antibiotics used to treat tularemia include streptomycin, gentamicin, doxycycline, and ciprofloxacin. Treatment usually lasts 10 to 21 days depending on the stage of illness and the medication used. Although symptoms may last for several weeks, most patients completely recover.


Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks; laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat.

Other Tick-borne Spotted Fever Rickettsial Infections

In addition to Rickettsia rickettsii, the agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), several other tick-borne species of Rickettsia, broadly grouped under the heading "Spotted Fever group Rickettsia (SFGR)" have been shown to cause human infections. Tick-borne SFGR are transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick, and may cause similar signs and symptoms to those observed for RMSF. These pathogens include several species of Rickettsia found in the United States, including R. parkeri and Rickettsia species 364D.


Tick Vector

Geographic Distribution

Clinical Symptoms

Rickettsia parkeri

Amblyomma maculatum (Gulf Coast tick)

Eastern and southern U.S., particularly along the coast

Fever, headache, eschar(s), variable rash

Rickettsia species 364D

Dermacentor occidentalis (Pacific Coast tick)

Northern California, Pacific Coast

Fever, eschar(s)



Ehrlichiosis is the general name used to describe several bacterial diseases that affect animals and humans. Human ehrlichiosisis a disease caused by at least three different ehrlichial species in the United States: Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Ehrlichia ewingii, and a third Ehrlichia species provisionally called Ehrlichia muris-like (EML). Ehrlichiae are transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick. The lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) is the primary vector of both Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii in the United States. Typical symptoms include: fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. Usually, these symptoms occur within 1-2 weeks following a tick bite. Ehrlichios is is diagnosed based on symptoms, clinical presentation, and later confirmed with specialized laboratory tests. The first line treatment for adults and children of all ages is doxycycline.



Older info from 2003:

Tick Fever:

Lymes and HGE (human ehrlichiosis) (HGE is more common than previously believed and can be disabling or fatal)

HGE does not cause the bulls eye rash normally seen with Lymes. Authorities caution to treat for HgE while awaiting blood test results, especially is no bulls eye rash.

The following is from several sources and covers both humans and dogs:


Hot off the press from CDC 4-2002

There has been at least one confirmed case in Sharp County Arkansas(Baptist Northeast Regional) and one in Northern Mississippi that I know of) (he died)


These are classified as emerging diseases, since they have only recently been recognized. Human ehrlichiosis (HE) was first identified in 1986 and human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) in 1993. Over 400 cases of HE (nine fatal) have been reported from 30 of the 50 US states, primarily in the southeastern and south-central portions of the country. HGE occurs more frequently further north. As of early 1996, fewer than 100 confirmed cases of HGE had been reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. Of these, four were fatal. As with any other tick-borne illness (TBI), American examples are used only because they were conveniently available when this was written. TBIs are no respecters of international borders.

Two members of the Erlichiae family of bacteria are known to cause illness in humans. The majority of the Erlichiae family are veterinary pathogens.

The signs and symptoms of both types of human ehrlichiosis are identical, including fever, a headache that will not respond to normal analgesic treatment, malaise (feeling poorly), muscle aches, chills, sweating, nausea, and vomiting. Less often, patients will also have other symptoms, such as cough, joint pain, confusion, and a rash. The rash can occur anywhere on the body, and is not necessarily associated with the tick bite site. The symptomology can also mimic leukemia, particularly in the HGE form of the disease. Elderly patients (more than 60 years old) are more likely to develop severe infections, and account for the majority of deaths associated with ehrlichiosis. However, serious complications can develop in any age group.

Many of these symptoms are shared with Lyme disease, so misdiagnosis is possible. Unfortunately, ehrlichiosis responds to a far narrower range of antibiotics that Lyme disease does, so treatment with the wrong medication is also possible. Doxycycline is the preferred antibiotic.

The most commonly affected body systems are the liver, spleen, bone marrow, and lymph nodes.

Treatment should not be delayed while awaiting laboratory results. Waiting only makes a serious, possibly fatal, infection more likely. If a patient is being treated for Lyme disease, and HE or HGE without Lyme disease is the final diagnosis, the medications being used can always be changed, if necessary. After appropriate treatment begins, the fever normally abates within 24-48 hours. However, the complete course of treatment is quite a bit longer..

Yet Another New Illness Transmitted by Ticks

(Taken from The Wall Street Journal - 8/17/95)

A new hazard is joining sand traps and ponds on the nation's golf courses.

The hazard is a little-known disease borne by ticks, and it threatens not only golfers but almost anyone else who ventures into the woods, especially in the South. The disease is the second obscure tick-borne illness to grab the attention of epidemic experts in the last several months.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that they analyzed a 1993 outbreak of a tick-borne disease called human ehrlichiosis at a retirement community in Tennessee with several golf courses.

Golfers who searched for errant balls off the fairway into the woods were almost four times more likely to show evidence of past infection with the potentially fatal disease than those who played new balls.

Perhaps more seriously, the same scientists reported that the little-known disease might be more common than previously realized. Only about 400 cases of the flu-like ehrlichiosis have been confirmed nation-wide since the ailment was identified in 1987. But 12.5% of the 3,000 retirees in the Tennessee community showed evidence of previous infection by the ehrlichiosis bacterium, Vanderbilt University's William Schaffner and his colleagues report in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.

Eleven of these residents developed full-blown cases of the disease, and several required long hospital stays. This rate of illness was 200 times higher than in previous studies, Dr. Schaffner's team reports.

"My guess is that this is more common than Lyme disease in the southern U.S.," said Sam Telford, a parisitologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. Cases also have been reported in the Northeast and Midwest. The ailment is carried by the Lone Star tick, one of the more common ticks in the Southeast.

ehrlichiosis is easy to misdiagnose, because its initial symptoms - fever, headache, and nausea - resemble many other maladies, including Lyme disease. Unlike Lyme disease, though, it almost never causes skin rash. If untreated, the disease often rapidly worsens, and can cause kidney and respiratory failure. Moreover, the ailment responds to only one of several antibiotics that are used for treating Lyme disease - so a misdiagnosis could have serious consequences.

Human ehrlichiosis isn't the only new tick scourge golfers and hikers have to worry about. A sister disease, human granulocytic ehrlichiosis, was identified last year. It garnered headlines in recent months after causing outbreaks - and a few deaths - in the upper Midwest and New York. Just this week, Harvard's Dr. Telford and his colleagues verified the first case in Massachusetts. HGE is carried by the same deer tick that causes Lyme disease.

West Coast residents aren't off the hook, either. Earlier this year, another team of researchers verified that four California residents had been infected with a new version of tick-borne babesiosis, a malaria like malady. Until recently, babesiosis was thought to reside only in the eastern part of the country.

Virginia Tech Entomology Department
Comments to:
VT Entomology
Last updated:
May 15, 1998



The following consumer information is provided by Sandra Woods, D.V.M.,
Division of Drugs for Non-Food Animals, Center for Veterinary Medicine


Among the many tick-borne diseases which are transmitted to man and animals, three stand out as most prevalent. Each of these diseases occurs seasonally in the United States--most incidences occurring in summer and fall. People and animals that spend a lot of time outside in wooded areas are most likely to be affected.

The following symptoms for each disease are common to humans and animals with minor exceptions. For example, a rash is not easily found in animals.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

This disease is caused by Rickettsia rickettsii, a microorganism which is usually transmitted by Ixodidae (hard ticks). The species most commonly involved are Dermacentor andersoni (wood tick), Dermacentor variabilis (dog tick), and Amblyomma americanum (Lone-Star tick of the southern United States, particularly Texas and Louisiana).

Man, dogs and cats, farm animals, and wildlife species are affected. People should examine themselves and their pets for ticks after each trip outside. The onset of symptoms may be abrupt. Common symptoms are fever, chills, severe headaches, muscle pains, and a rash.

The mortality rate for Rocky Mountain spotted fever is less than 10 percent if an antibiotic is started promptly. Some patients may require supportive therapies, such as intravenous fluids, steroids, and nasogastric feedings. Improvement should be rapid (36 to 48 hours). The exact treatment should be determined by the animal's veterinarian or, in the case of a human, a personal physician.

Tick Paralysis

This disease is most commonly caused by female hard ticks of the Dermacentor species. Both man and animal may be affected; the animals most affected are dogs, cattle, and sheep.

A flaccid paralysis progresses from the back to the front of the affected animal and is due to a toxin injected when the ticks feed. Paralysis is most likely to occur from prolonged feeding and bites located along the spine, neck, or head in people as well as animals.

Symptoms include anorexia, lethargy, muscle weakness, lack of coordination, and nystagmus (involuntary, rapid movement of the eyeball).

Bite sites should be cleansed with soap and water. If bare hands are used to remove the tick, care must be taken to avoid squeezing as this may inject more toxin. Hands should be washed immediately after disposing of the tick. If the bite wounds are inflamed or look infected, an antibiotic and steroid ointment can be applied. It's a good idea to consult a veterinarian on the proper way to remove and dispose of ticks on pets. Never use a lit cigarette or matches to disengage the tick because of the obvious danger of a serious burn to the animal.

If respiratory or cardiac arrest has not occurred, removal of the tick(s) usually leads to rapid and complete recovery.

Lyme Disease

This disease, named after the small town of Lyme, Connecticut where a group of people were initially affected in 1975, is the most prevalent disease transmitted by ticks in the U.S. It is caused by a spirochete called Borrelia burgdorferi and has been reported in wildlife (moose, elk, and deer), cattle and horses, dogs and cats, and man. Cases have been diagnosed in most States with a high incidence along the Eastern seaboard, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

The ticks that transmit this disease are very small, the size of sesame seeds as adults, and in approximately 30 percent of the confirmed cases, no tick bites can be documented.

Symptoms include a bull's-eye rash in about 70 percent of human patients, malaise, fatigue, joint pains, neurological signs, cardiac abnormalities, and arthritis. Patients develop antibody titers to the disease, but a single test is difficult to interpret. Rising titers with clinical signs indicate infection and should be treated with systemic antibiotics for 10 days or longer.

Both the veterinarian and family physician should be notified if either a member of the family or a pet develops symptoms after visiting an area where ticks may live. Most patients recover if they receive prompt treatment. A small percentage of cases require prolonged treatment for recovery, or fail to respond.

In conclusion, the symptoms of these three tick-borne diseases can be easily confused; therefore, both veterinarians and physicians need to carefully investigate all patients with vague flu-like symptoms. With a few simple precautions, people and pets should be able to enjoy outside activities and be protected against tick-borne diseases.


1. Use a good tick repellent before participating in outside activities.
2. If possible, avoid areas with heavy brush, low-hanging tree limbs or long grass.
3. After returning home, remove all clothing worn outside and launder in hot water and soap.
4. Examine yourself carefully after all outside activities.
5. Treat your home environment (inside and outside) at regular intervals during the tick season to reduce the tick population.
Total elimination of ticks is unlikely due to natural reservoirs such as mice, birds, deer, and other wildlife.
6. Cut the grass around your house and remove brush and low tree limbs to decrease tick habitat and wildlife use of your property.


1. Have your veterinarian set up your tick control plan.
2. Use flea and tick sprays as directed to avoid overdosing.
3. Rotate flea products based on active ingredients rather than brand names to prevent resistance.
4. Examine pets for ticks after each outing and remove ticks as directed by your veterinarian.

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